Russia to Oust Officials at 1,000 Companies on Medvedev Push

Empty Board RoomApril 22 (Bloomberg) -- Russia will remove government officials from the boards of more than 1,000 companies, advancing President Dmitry Medvedev's drive to separate corporate governance from state administration.

Of the companies involved, 950 are on the state's asset- sale program, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told reporters outside Moscow today. State companies should consider members of a presidential "talent pool" as replacements, Medvedev told a government meeting.

The government plans to raise 1 trillion rubles ($36 billion) from the sale of state assets in the next three years to reduce its role in the economy and help cover budget deficits. Medvedev last month issued 10 orders to improve the investment climate, including a schedule for the asset sales and the call to remove officials from state companies.

"Medvedev's mantra is the modernization of Russia," Roland Nash, chief investment strategist at Verno Investment Management Ltd., said today by e-mail. "The professionalism of state business is a great place to start."

By July 1, government officials must leave the boards of 17 companies, including VTB Group, Russia's second-biggest bank, OAO Rosneft, its largest oil producer, and OAO Aeroflot, its biggest airline.

'Cadre of Technocrats'

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who has worked with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for two decades, stepped down as Rosneft's chairman this month. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin will leave the boards of VTB and OAO Alrosa, Russia's diamond monopoly, the Finance Ministry said this week.

Medvedev selected 100 officials, executives and academics as promising managers. The federal list has since been expanded to include more than 1,000 people.

"Bringing in some of his cadre of technocrats helps to both professionalize management and improve his power base ahead of elections," Nash said.

Putin and Medvedev, his handpicked successor, have both said they may run for the presidency in 2012. The country's two top officials, whose approval ratings have fallen near historic lows, have said they will decide together which of them should run.

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